It’s easy to confuse acts of kindness and generosity with people-pleasing behaviors.
If you ask me to go out to lunch with you, and I don’t really want to, but I also know it’s important to you, would my going be an act of kindness or is it just a form of codependent, people-pleasing?
How do we know?
This week, I’ve put together a quick list of “checks” for you to find out if you’re truly being kind, or just avoiding something uncomfortable.
Here are a few examples of people-pleasing behaviors – do any of them sound like you?
- Apologizing habitually, without even thinking about it because you just don’t want people to be upset with you.
- Not saying no when people ask you to do things that you don’t want to do, because you don’t want anyone to be uncomfortable – including yourself.
- Repeatedly forgiving people who refuse to change and actually keep hurting you.
- Not expressing your feelings, needs or true beliefs when you are upset.
- Not defending yourself or standing up for yourself when someone else is unkind or disrespectful.
- Saying yes to people when you are overbooked and at capacity because you don’t want to disappoint others.
- Being a support system to everyone else but yourself.
Ok, so differentiating between people-pleasing and genuine kindness can be challenging, but here are some key distinctions:
People-pleasing behaviors are motivated by fear, whereas kindness is motivated by generosity and resourcefulness. When I am in people-pleasing mode, I am all about seeking approval and avoiding rejection. I want to make everyone happy, even if it means ignoring my own needs. True kindness, however, arises from a genuine, deep care for others’ well-being without expecting anything in return.
In people-pleasing mode I have a difficult time saying no to others and setting boundaries that protect my own well-being. I’ll find myself doing whatever it takes to keep everyone else satisfied, even if it means sacrificing my own happiness. Genuine kindness, however, is grounded in my own healthy boundaries. I care about others, but I also make sure to take care of myself and respect my own limits. I find ways to act compassionately and generously, without compromising my own well-being.
Authenticity and Being Real:
In people-pleasing mode, I often put on a front and pretend to agree with everyone. I’m afraid that speaking my mind might upset someone. True kindness, on the other hand, is grounded in my courage to be authentic. I can be kind and still express my true thoughts and feelings, while remaining considerate of other people’s feelings and needs.
In people-pleasing mode I tend to forget about myself because I’m so busy trying to make everyone else happy and to avoid conflict or discomfort. I don’t take enough time to recharge and look after my own well-being. Genuine kindness recognizes that self-care is foundationally important: I need to take care of myself first, before I can show genuine kindness to others.
When I am people-pleasing, I often feel stressed and anxious because I’m depending on approval or validation from others. This can be a tough cycle to break. Genuine kindness, however, feels fulfilling, safe and joyous. It’s not about what others think; it’s about the genuine connection and compassion we have within ourselves.
In people-pleasing mode, I struggle with assertiveness. I can be scared to voice my needs or boundaries, because it might upset someone. True kindness involves being assertive and speaking up with love and clarity. We can communicate our thoughts, feelings, and boundaries respectfully, while caring about others’ feelings and needs.
Remember that sometimes we all slip into people-pleasing mode; it’s ok.
The key to growth here is to continue to become more aware of your intentions, motivations, and the impact of your actions. Strive for genuine kindness, where you care about others without sacrificing your own well-being. It’s all about finding that important balance between self and other that is grounded in authentic kindness, rooted in empathy and genuine concern for others, and can foster healthier relationships and personal well-being.